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  • Writer's pictureJohn Frye

VoIP & 911 - You're Covered

VoIP And 911

As I say all the time, the VoIP technology of today is almost unrecognizable from its humble beginnings. Early in the days of VoIP, one of the largest concerns was that it may not be able to connect to local 911 services correctly. This was (of course) one of the first considerations that VoIP infrastructure and carriers had to address.

This was the problem.

Enhanced 911 and the FCC

When VoIP technology first came onto the market, consumers began contacting the FCC in the United States in an effort to complain about not being able to dial 911 and get their local police, fire or rescue services fast enough to their home. This inability to contact emergency services left people in a public safety problem that was critical in regards to the potential risks.

The FCC (Federal Communication Commission) studied the problem and instituted with new requirements for VoIP technology. It created something called ‘Enhanced 911,’ which is also called E911.

With older technology for VoIP, you could have picked up the phone and dialed 911, but you may or may not have been able to get in touch with the right agencies. But, even if you did, there was no way for those governmental protection agencies to help you unless you could give your physical address.

Because the 911 technology of old did allow for this ability to tell the emergency services where you were and even gave them your call back number, they could get to you faster, saving lives.

With Enhanced 911, this is not something we have to worry about. In January 2015, the FCC adopted new Enhanced 911 (E911) location accuracy rules and information collection requirements in the Fourth Report and Order in PS Docket No. 07-114. The FCC instituted laws that require that those that have interconnected VoIP services (which is what you would be using) will need to use the Public Switched Telephone Network (called PSTN) to provide your information. This network must include wireless networks, too.

This means that if you are to originate or terminate a call, it must be used on this network in order to insure that individuals can still gain access to emergency services. The Enhanced 911 makes sure of this by automatically providing your call back number as well as your location information, in most cases, to emergency personnel.

Interconnected VoIP Service And Public Safety

Interconnected service is a term that the government uses to describe VoIP. When it was first made available, VoIP did not take into consideration such public service problems, but today this has changed.

With a standard telephone service, the phone number that you have is associated with your address. This means that your phone and your location are locked in, making it easy for emergency workers to know where you are located in case of emergency.

But, with VoIP, this is not necessary possible in that regard. VoIP services allow you to take your phone with you, no matter where you go. While this is a huge benefit for the VoIP user, it still presents a problem in that you could be any place that there is a broadband connection.

That means that there is not one set location for your phone number to be connected with your location.

VoIP technology has been adjusted, so to speak, to insure that the person that dials 911 can be able to take advantage of public safety services. Even still, there are things you need to know as the consumer using VoIP.

With a traditional phone system, as soon as you place a 911 call, the emergency worker on the other end already knows your location and the phone number you are calling from. This is because the Public Safety Answering Point (the location in which your call is received which is generally assigned to one particular area) has the ability to track your call.

With VoIP, calls to your emergency personnel happen slightly differently, but are every bit as secure. There is technology in place that prioritizes emergency calls and delivers your address as soon as the call connects – just like with traditional lines. That’s why you’ll see a charge on your monthly VoIP bill called ‘E911.’ It’s one of the few fees associated with VoIP, and it’s essential.

911 services are provided as part of the standard service of VoIP. It becomes a mandatory feature, not something that you may not have or have to request to have. You can’t opt out of 911 coverage either.

Before you can get your VoIP service, the FCC has made the requirement of providing your physical address of where the primary service will be used. This will help emergency teams to find your primary location. VoIP providers must also insure some easy way that you can report your current location if it should change from this location.

All 911 calls must be sent to the right location with emergency service providers in your local area. This includes all callback numbers and your location.

How This Affects You

What does all of this mean to you, the subscriber to VoIP who may one day need to call on emergency services? There are actually many things that you’ll need to realize and do if you are to keep yourself safe and still take advantage of what VoIP can offer to you. CVD will make sure you’re completely protected when we setup your VoIP system.

Most of our customers choose to install and maintain a back up power supply, so that their VoIP service can run when there is a power failure. We can also setup a system that calls a mobile/cell phone as an emergency backup.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of VoIP is essential. Remember that VoIP technology can vary by provider. CVD is a tier-one VoIP provider, which means we get it from the source. No middleman to muddle the signal, so to speak. We also make sure to provide you with the information and tools to keep you safe and protected at all times.

E911 is just one of the many safeguards CVD provides to our VoIP customers. Others include battery backup, call fail-safe, robocall protection, and more. Give us a call to see how what we can do for your business.


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